This is a sad and bittersweet message, but I need to write it and I think you might get something positive out of it too. Belesemo Wizard is no more. Today I had to have my vet put him down, three months and one week shy of his twenty-eighth birthday. We were together for eighteen of those years, and he made my life better for knowing and caring for him. You may recall I bought him from Linda Pearson of Warrenville, IL, after viewing a tape you sent me. When I went to Chicago to see him, after viewing that tape dozens of times I knew if the horse in the flesh was the horse on the tape I would buy him in a heartbeat, and I did.
We lived in the Chicago area for a year (I worked as a software engineer for a company owned by Google and retired in 2009) before we found our place here in Arkansas. I boarded Wizard at a facility across the road from a forest preserve with extensive equestrian trails.
Wizard was never lame, barefoot all but two of the years I owned him, never suffered any of the common horse ailments until the very end. A few months ago he developed a fast-growing sarcoid tumor on the inside of his right check beginning at the lip crease. It grew over an eight week period from the size of a marble to the size of a grapefruit. Sarcoids are caused by the bovine papillomavirus (BPV), which is transmitted between cattle and horses by flies. In cattle it causes harmless warts but in horses there are six different types of equine sarcoids that can occur. Some though not all are malignant. Being inside Wizard's mouth and so large before it was fully and correctly diagnosed made surgery impossible. Cutting the mass out would have cost him a third of the right side of his face. And my vet and the pathologist that processed the biopsies believe the sarcoid was the type that metastasizes.
There is a drug therapy that has had limited success, especially with small sarcoids. It is called immunocidin, from a Canadian company. The drug is supposed to stimulate the immune system to attack the growth. We tried it but it had no effect. Additionally, the sarcoid being inside Wizard's cheek, it limited his ability to eat and he lost weight.
He was a wonderful horse and I loved him dearly. We never competed in endurance, not because he was not up to the effort, it was because I wasn't. Thirty miles or so was as much as I could ride due to my old injuries. Wizard and I went on many rides of that duration, before I knew what I had. In fact, I kept a training log when we lived in Oregon within 4 miles of the Bandit Springs trailhead. I stopped making entries in the log when it reached 7,000 miles, and I knew I'd never be able to do even a fifty. We rode the entire Bandit Springs course in segments more than once and I have little doubt Wizard would have been competitive, and barefoot, no less.
I'd owned him for about two years when I decided to forego shoes. And I also decided that since he was my horse, then his feet were my responsibility, not something to be hired out, so I paid my barefoot trimmer to teach me to do the trim. I also bought videos from experts and after we moved and switched trimmers, I still paid for lessons. I think now, if I wanted to, after 16 years of trimming Wizard and twelve trimming Belesemo Arioso, Wizard's half brother, I could earn a living trimming horses the barefoot way... except I'm slow. It still takes be twice as long per horse than the man I use here in Arkansas, to review my technique. Every third trim he observes how I do it. Even after all these years, it's still worth it to me to pay an expert with whom I can discuss hoof care and have my technique vetted.
Yes, that's right, we still own Belesemo Arioso. You may recall I wanted to clone Wizard and you offered the horse you called "Rio" to me. His owner was about to depart for college and she thought she would not have time for him. We never called him Rio. He is and has always been Ari, to us. He'll turn seventeen this year and he's still going great and has never been shod. We've been fortunate to own, or be owned by, two of Magic's get. It doesn't get any better than that. I'm especially glad I have him now that Wizard is gone.
I remember a time when we were living in Oregon in the Ochoco's near Bandit Springs. Wizard was an only horse then and he had eight acres of pasture with a year-round creek running through one corner. He got into it with a porcupine. I was working on fence on the opposite side of the pasture, the side adjoining the Ochoco National Forest and I heard the squeal. He broke into a gallop and raced across the pasture to where I was working, and he stood still while I pulled out six or seven quills from his nose with a pair of pliers. I know pulling those quills out hurt him but he just stood there with his head down with no restraint while I did it. I think he knew I would help him and that's why he came to me.
We made two long elk hunting pack trips together into the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Three of us with three mules and five horses. The second trip we ended a day early in the five-day hunting season. Each night we listened to a NOAA weather report and we heard a humongous snow storm was coming. We decided the better part of valor was to get out early, before the storm hit. We were camped at 5,500' in the valley of the North Minam with a climb to an 8,000' pass and it started to snow that night. By morning there was six inches already on the ground. One of my pals is a vet, a really big man, at least 240 lbs with a 70 lb western saddle, plus rifle, saddle bags, backpack and heavy winter clothes. He was riding a big boned Appaloosa gelding that must have weighed 1,200 lbs, and he always led, with his string of three mules. My job was to ride drag and watch the packs, since I did not own any of the pack string. Five hundred feet short of the summit, with snow up to our stirrups, my friend's horse could break trail no longer. I had offered to lead but both my pals thought my little Arab wasn't up to the job. They were both too macho to accept help from me and my itty-bitty show ring horse. So, now with no other choice, barefoot Wizard took the lead. At the top he was blowing like a freight train but suffered no ill effects. On the other side of the pass the snow wasn't nearly so deep, and we all made it back to the trucks no worse for the wear. After that my pals stopped talking about how nervous, high-strung and ill-behaved all Arabians are.
Horses, being prey animals, building a relationship and bonding with them is not like what we do with our dogs and cats. It takes a special kind of empathy to earn their trust. My two have given me more joy than I can ever describe in mere words. Thank you for making it possible to own two such extraordinary horses.